genuine goodness

my 16-year-old pot holder

When my son Matt was about 14, we were sitting on our front steps talking, and noticed a young boy riding his bike up the street, stopping at the houses before ours. He looked like a poor kid, not unhappy, but you could see he didn’t have a lot materially. He was selling pot holders.
When he reached us, I asked him how much they were, and went back in the house to get my purse. I told Matt he could pick one out, and I’d pay when I returned.  I came back outside with the money, and Matt was still looking them over. Then he asked the boy, “How do you make these?” I could see that no one else had asked that question, and the boy lit up. He started telling us how he wove the strands together, and how he picked the colors. Matt listened like this little boy was explaining something profound.

Had anyone ever been that interested in him before? I don’t know, but I can imagine that it might have even changed him…. It certainly did me. I’m not berating myself, but  in that moment, I was just “someone doing a good deed for a needy kid.” Matt noticed a human being who made useful, colorful things to sell and engaged with him at that level.

So many of us get discouraged that we are not doing “big things” to help others; joining the peace corps, running a mission, opening a school in Pakistan, organizing a march for peace…. We see others doing these grand things and feel like we come up short. Interestingly though, some of us have done grand things, and still feel the same way.

There is a part of the mind that never fails to let us know that we are not quite good enough, not sincere enough, not nice enough, not giving enough. We think there will be, some big thing that we will do, or become, and that we will finally feel that we are somehow OK. And this is simply not true. Meaningful life is lived in the little, moment by moment, ways that we are present, first with ourselves and then with others. We might be led to do bigger things but they will still unfold in little daily steps.

Every time I pull out this pot holder, I think about that sweet little moment in time so many years ago. It uplifts me, and makes me remember that it is the genuine act, no matter how seemingly insignificant, that changes both us and the world.

 “Let one who wants to move and convince others, first be convinced and moved themselves. If a person speaks with genuine earnestness, the thoughts, the emotion and the actual condition of their own heart, others will listen because we are all knit together.” Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

22 thoughts on “genuine goodness”

  1. Mary,

    Your post reminds me that many little genuine acts, joined together, can become that big grand thing many of us are striving for. A life lived with gladness and care for one another and the world, step by little step, can bring much joy and many rewards. Thanks!


  2. Thanks again for your words of wisdom. Matt was a very amazing child and I’m sure is an amazing young man. Wonder who he takes after? :‹)

  3. Just returned from a few days away and couldn’t wait to get back to White Feather Farm friends. What a rich week of thoughts and comments to return to. I missed you all.

    This is such a sweet post and likely shaped that little boy’s confidence in such a positive way. Years ago, each and every morning I would drive through the projects in Newark, N.J. to get to my office building. Each and every morning there was, what appeared to be a homeless woman, selling The Newark Star Ledger on the corner. Rain or shine, bitter cold, 100 degree weather, she stood on that corner and people beeped at her for the paper. I never bought the paper. But each and every morning this woman would see me and she would give me the biggest smile. Here I was the one going to a great job every morning, nice car, professionally dressed, etc and she was on the corner selling papers, looking like she hadn’t slept in days. But her smile was always huge and bright. It taught me something. After literally months and months of exchanged waves and smiles, Christmas arrived. I tooted for a paper and when she came to the car I gave her a Christmas card with money in it. Told her how much her beautiful smile meant to me every day, and drove away before she opened it. The next day, at the traffic light, I looked for her daily smile. But she was gone. Hmmm…I thought, I hope she isn’t sick. I had told my circle of friends at work and they all laughed at me and said I was stupid for giving her any money, that it would be spent on booze or drugs. Or worse, perhaps she showed someone and they mugged her for the money for their own alcohol or drugs. But my gut told me differently. I chose to believe she bought a bus ticket or train ticket to family somewhere, or at least got to a warmer place. I was in and out of Newark for years after that and never saw her again, although I always looked for her. So I’ll never know. And while I missed her and her smile, I would do it again.

    1. This is such a beautiful story! At the risk of sounding “out there”, I just thought, “That woman was an angel….there to show you how good you really are Kathye.”

    2. Kathye, your story so touched my heart, I am having my first really good cry of the week! occasions like your described are the true “life moments” that we always remember with wonder.

      Thank you for the post.

    3. Kathye,
      Thank you for sharing that. We all affect others with the things we do.
      Hopefully in good ways.
      I know you were a blessing to that woman.

      1. I’m happy you all enjoyed my story. Thank you. Mary, I had never thought of “her” as an angel but that makes me smile…at times I am a bit haunted by the memory of her abrupt disappearance, praying that she was and still is OK. Until now, I’ve not considered that perhaps the small gesture we make toward a stranger or to a friend, that random act of kindness, could be “the” sign that they were looking for and praying for. We just never know…and I hadn’t thought about that until I began to read and love this blog. THANK YOU!

  4. Mary, Thank you. You touch the heart. Each one of us want to be heard even if it is in a small voice. We just need someone to listen to our story. I pray that I become a much better listener. I want to hear those stories. And for them to know how important they are to the world.

    Thanks again, Wonderky

  5. Good Morning Mary and all who red this post today. What I want to share today is so in sync with today’s post. Reflecting on this past weekend, I was just telling my husband that I feel good about myself because last week I got 3
    “Crisis Calls”, one from my sister Anne, really heaving crying scared and asking me just to stay on the phone with her. She li es in Houston, Texas, so that was all I could really do in the moment to help her. We stayed on the phone until she was calm enough to do the next right thing, and I prayed for and with her before we hung up. Anne got the help she needed close to home and her weekend plans were able to go forward.

    Another sister called also a serious problem I evolving her daughter and this weekend. All I did was listen and give some calming ideas.

  6. Mary Rita continued…..please excuse I am having trouble with this key pad!

    The third crisis call was from a close friend who had a name calling fight with her good friend, asking my advice . I did much of the listening, spoke as a mediator, gave some sound advice.

    In eac of these cases what I did was seemingly small and will not make the front pages of any newspaper, but the results for each woman in crisis were good this weekend, not all because of me, but because of sharing and caring need, love, experience , strength, and HOPE, a very big thing!

  7. Heartwarming post, Mary, and what a great boy you raised! If we all answered just one small call to serve each day, whether it be for compassion or physical help or just “being there” for someone, we would all have a lifetime of contribution on our life-lists. It really doesn’t take much.

  8. This is such a real potholder which says “see me”, how many times we long to be seen…how many times we do not see… Thank you Mary….for guiding me to see life with attuned awareness and joy…it reminds me of the song-
    I Can See Clearly Now… I remember Stevie Wonder’s cover/version…

    Sue V

  9. Your post today is so heartwarming. What a great son you have, Mary. Your comment about angels reminds me of an incident that happened years ago when my husband, Ted, and I were visiting my parents down in Florida. We decided to go off on our own and rented a rent-a-wreck car. As we were driving around, we saw a beautiful beach on the side of the road and decided to park there to enjoy the water. As soon as we pulled off the road a ways, we got stuck up to the floorboards of the car. This was before the days of cell phones, so we were very worried about how were were going to get out of there. We tried using the floormats under the front wheels for traction, that didn’t work, just chewed up the mats real good. A little while later, a huge four wheeler truck came along and these guys jumped out and first tried to tow us. It wasn’t working, so they all got together and pushed the car out of the sand and we were free! After we thanked them and were driving on our way, I said to my husband it seemed liked they were angels that came out of nowhere and helped us. Hebrews 13:2

  10. Perfect Mary – and it made me feel teary reading that, imagining your son’s realization and treating another child with such tenderness and thoughtfulness. I have seen my own boys in such moments and it is profound to see LOVE in action.

  11. So many moving responses to your post today Mary. I am so very grateful to be a part of this circle of friends. The quote is definitely going in my WFF folder – that phrase, “if one speaks with genuine earnestness”. . . Kathye, your gift to the woman with the wonderful smile was given in genuine earnestness and you can rest assured, it not only met a financial need, but it validated her worth in the eyes of another. And you stopped. And you cared. Genuine earnestness, a fourteen year old boy’s question to a younger boy, “How did you make these?” – and his eyes lit up. He was also being validated. And I love that genuine earnestness needs no pomp, no loud speaker. Just a genuineness in spirit, in heart and in voice. We are all knit together.

  12. I loved your post. I am glad to see you have a potholder like mine.
    I love these potholders. They are old fashioned but to me they are the best.

    My sisters and I all made these growing up and since I have married, my husband made some for me one year.

    We may have plain ordinary things that don’t look very special to others but they are special to us because of the memories associated with the object.

    I bet every time you use that little potholder it makes you feel good.

    Have a great week Mary!!!


  13. Good Morning all! I’ve been busy with out of town guests for several days and just spent the last 1 1/2 hrs catching up here. At first I thought oh, look what I missed, then, I thought, although my gratitude for what is written and shared here is delayed, it’s like a big sandwich of tasty morsels of wisdom and love and positive energy. Here is what I take away from the last 5 days of WFF posts: you mean something so speak up, long, loud ( or quiet) and often. Help your fellow humans when you feel called to , and don’t criticize yourself for not doing enough because every small step means so much to another. There might just be angels among us! Happy Monday to all…

  14. Mary, I really enjoy your posts. How do you come up with something to reflect on every single day? Don’t you have “dry” days when nothing comes?

    1. Thank you Diane! I had that concern too. On days when no thoughts come, I ask the Divine something like, “What am I supposed to write about today?”…that seems to open things up!

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